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November 29, 2011 6:45 PM

Ex-Solyndra GC Gaffney Joins Gibson, Dunn

Posted by Sara Randazzo

John Gaffney, who served as Solyndra's general counsel from February 2010 through the failed solar panel maker's bankruptcy filing in September and into early November, has joined Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's New York office as a partner, the firm announced Tuesday.

At Gibson, Dunn, the 51-year-old Gaffney will relaunch a practice developed over 22 years at Cravath, Swaine & Moore that focuses on corporate and commercial transactions and mergers and acquisitions. While at Cravath, Gaffney specialized in capital markets work. His past clients include Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Home Box Office, and Nestle, according to a Gibson, Dunn release announcing his hire.

Gaffney began working in the solar industry in 2008, when he left Cravath to become chief legal officer at Arizona-based First Solar, a client of the firm. Two years later, Solyndra recruited Gaffney to become its general counsel. Gaffney, who started at Gibson, Dunn Monday, was unavailable for comment, according to a firm spokeswoman.

Hailed at one point by President Barack Obama as an example of how the environmentally friendly energy industry can spur job growth, Fremont, California–based Solyndra was forced to close its plant, lay off its entire workforce, and file for bankruptcy protection in Delaware on September 6 despite receiving what has become a controversial $535 million U.S. Department of Energy loan.

Agents from the Energy Department's Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Solyndra's Silicon Valley offices just two days after the company's September 6 bankruptcy filing, and the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California launched a criminal investigation related to how the company secured the loan guarantee. Solyndra, which made solar cells for power systems marketed to commercial clients in North America and Europe, blamed its failure in part on difficulty competing with Chinese manufacturers.

Several top Solyndra executives were subsequently called to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as Republican lawmakers seized on the company's failure to question the circumstances surrounding the loan. Gaffney was not among those called to testify.

As The Am Law Daily has previously reported, Gaffney's new firm has its own ties to Solyndra. A Gibson, Dunn team including business restructuring and reorganization cochair Michael Rosenthal, partner J. Eric Wise, and of counsel Matthew Kelsey are among those advising Argonaut Solar, Solyndra's largest shareholder. A former Gibson, Dunn attorney, Steven Mitchell, also serves on Solyndra's board and is a managing director of Argonaut Private Equity. 

The Washington Times reported in September that Gibson, Dunn was one of three law firms to receive money in connection to proceeds from the controversial loan. Bankruptcy court documents show that between February and August of this year, Solyndra paid Gibson, Dunn more than $1.6 million. The same court filing shows that Gaffney earned about $496,000 from the company in 2011, with the last payment coming just four days before the bankruptcy filing.

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